Every Sunday and holiday, about 80 miles of the main streets of Bogota are blocked off from cars for most of the day so that bicyclists, runners, skaters, and pedestrians can take over the streets. The ciclovias are used by about 2 million people – about 30% of the population and are surrounded by other events on park stages – concerts, yoga and aerobic instructions, and other performances.
And now, Los Angeles, the least likely suspect, whose endless concrete and streets have been the butt of urban critique for devoting most of the public space in the city to cars instead of people is on the verge of launching its own – CicLAvia – an event to be held on September 12 if all goes as planned.
“L.A. doesn’t have enough public space…of the largest cities in the U.S., L.A. is the most park-poor,” says Aaron Paley, CicLAvia advocate, in a video on Kickstarter, the social entrepreneur venture capital network. (What could be more Do-It-Together? Venture capital from anyone who can give $1 a more).
“But we do have these fantastic streets. And the streets already belong to us. And by turning the streets over to the people on a Sunday we create temporary parks overnight without any large investment.”
Aaron is a professional animator of public spaces and runs a company that is, ironically, called CARS (Community Arts Resources). He makes festivals, events, and turns concrete in L.A. into places where people dance, and, sing and play together. He’s a friend and we were Stanton Fellows together (a great program that helps social entrepreneurs create their own project – sorry, only in L.A.). He was researching and investigating and noodling about a new idea for public space, ended up in Bogota, and came back as a ciclovia evangelist.
Aaron isn’t the only one who sees so much potential in L.A. and that so much is to be learned from the cities of the south. He joined an existing team of ciclovangelists – dedicated people who love the city and bicycles enough to work really hard to produce the therapy that is necessary for them to get along better.
How great is that? I personally can’t wait. I’ve been biking so much more lately, inspired by my own rage against the machine (as in BP) but even more by CicLAvia’s positive vision of what is possible.
As far as I’m concerned, anything that makes public space in L.A. more pedestrian, more bike-friendly, more prone to (good) surprises, spontaneous art and social interaction is good medicine for our city’s fierce inequality. Not to mention that bicycling is fun.
All of this is is why I’ve responded to CicLAvia’s shout-out for support on Kickstarter with a $ contribution. And I invite you to do the same.
I know sometimes its hard to get moving without a song, so enjoy this music video love song to a bike by the delightfully nerdy helmet-headed Grave Architects, complete with some kind of British ciclovia going on.
more on CARS: www.carsla.net
more on CicLAvia: ciclavia.wordpress.com